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Friday, April 29, 2016

My Hero Dad - the Unbelievable True Story of Lolo

My Hero Dad's True Life Story - This is the story of the first man I loved, my first and forever hero, and the most dependable, loyal, honest, charming, and loving man I have ever or will ever know, my dad, Mariano Muyot, known to everyone simply as "Lolo" (Tagalog for “Grandpa”). Lolo was born in Manila, the Philippines on December 26, 1935. His father was an optometrist, who had a large, beautiful estate  and office in the beautiful tropical city of Manila. Lolo's  mother was a stunningly beautiful woman, devoted to her husband and 6 sons; the first 5 were much older, they were all teenagers when Mariano was born.  The Muyots had walled off estate with many servants, gardens, and a large art collection.  They were the founders of a music conservatory.  Little Mariano was doted on and cherished by both parents and his older brothers.  But all of that was about to change.

War was coming to their little paradise in the tropics.

When World War II descended like a scourge upon the Philippines, the Filipino army was probably one of the most under-prepared armies in the world at the time. Nonetheless, all 5 Mariano's older brothers volunteered and, because they were all college educated, went in as officers. When Mariano was 7 years old, Japanese soldiers came to his beautiful house to interrogate his father.  They knew his older brothers  were helping the U.S. Army learn to be "guerillas." The Japnese soldiers wanted to know where the US guerilla soldiers were. 

Dr. Vedasto Muyot refused to give up their locations. Mariano watched in terror as the Japanese soldiers beat his father savagely.   He cried as the soldiers smashed his father's precious eye-glass cases. When Mariano's mother ran to her husband, they slapped her and she fell to the ground weeping for the life she knew was slipping away.  Mariano could only watched in horror as the soldiers burned the entire palatial Muyot estate to the ground.  They dragged his father away to a concentration camp with other P.O.W.'s, including Filipino and US soldiers.  There he was tortured and beaten mercilessly alongside American soldiers and Filipino soldiers.

Mariano witnessed many atrocities and went from being an affluent doctor's son to being homeless. He never owned one toy growing up. He looked in the sky and saw "dogfights" between US and Japanese warplanes daily. If you know history, you know that General Douglas MacArthur is personally responsible for saving the Philippines and the US soldiers left behind on that island nation. Truman was ready to abandon the nation and the American troops, but MacArthur had lived in served in the Philippines for many years and he love the nation and it's beautiful people. He stood on the shores of Leyte and said, "I shall return," to the Filipino people he loved so much -- and he meant it. 

Defying his own Commander-in-Chief and sabotaging his own career, MacArthur did come back, he did liberate the Philippines and the remaining American troops. Vedasto Muyot crawled home from the concentration camp, emaciated.  He gazed once more the faces of his wife and children and soon after, died in his wife's loving arms.  Her name: Juliana Tiga Muyot. 

The "G.I.'s", the American soldiers who liberated the Philippines, were so good to the Filipino children they gave their own C-rations to the kids, including Mariano. Mariano  vowed then and there to do something to re-pay the Americans. 

In 1963, Mariano joined the U.S. Navy at Subic Bay Naval Base, initially as a foreign citizen. He served for 7 years. After serving in the Gulf of Tonkin, the only battle of Vietnam to be considered part of a "war" (Congress briefly declared war, then revoked it, hence Vietnam was actually a "conflict" although 56,000 soldiers and sailors died), he became a US Citizen under the provision whereby a foreign citizen who serves in the U.S. military during wartime is eligible for US citizenship. In between, he met an Irish American gal from Beacon, NY named Mary McCaffrey. They dated for a few weeks and got married in San Diego, CA during shore leave on April 4, 1964. They just celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary.

I was born July 23, 1965 while my dad, Mariano, was on a ship in Vietnam. My brother was born December 20, 1967. After leaving the Navy, my dad worked a full career at IBM, from which he retired years ago. 

He had colon cancer in 2001 but beat it. He was in Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital on 9/11 when the planes hit. The nurses and doctors couldn't wait to meet me and tell me how all the patients were so scared but my father, who had just had surgery days ago, walked around the hospital wheeling his IV with him, comforting the patients, especially the younger ones, saying he had faced death several times before, and not to be afraid, the worst thing to do if you're going to die is to be in a state of panic, to put themselves in a state of peace and everything would be all right. They say he brought peace to an otherwise panicked hospital. I could go on and on about my dad. 

All I'm going to say is I was one lucky little girl, you can only imagine what it was like to be Daddy's little girl, with Mariano Muyot as my dad.  Not that we had a lot of money, we didn't, but I always knew I was loved, loved, loved.  

This is a reprint of a blog I first posted in 2013. As I sit here today, Lolo is 81 and still feisty.  He suffered a stroke this past week and is working hard to get back to where he was.  He is receiving wonderful care at Vassar Brothers Hospital. If you don't see me every day at the office in the boathouse, you know that's because I am at Vassar hanging out with my Hero Dad.  

Have a great day everyone and always remember to count your blessings! 💗 Mrs. Lo (Daddy and Me 1967)